The Umbrellas prep debut LP for Slumberland (stream “Pictures”), tell us about its inspiration
San Francisco has a long, rich indiepop tradition, including such jangly bands as The Mantles, The Aislers Set, Grass Widow and, recently, The Reds, Pinks & Purples. Add to that The Umbrellas, who will release their self-titled debut album on August 6 via Slumberland Records. You can get a taste of the sparkling melodies and mid-fi DIY style via new single "Pictures," which the band says "explores the soreness one feels teetering in-between infatuation and reality." (Most of us have been there.) The video for the song premieres in this post and you can watch below.
We also asked The Umbrellas to tell us a little about the inspirations behind the album and they gave us a list that includes books, their S.F. hometown and its current scene, the weather, and more, and each of the four members picks an album, including The Pastels, Deerhoof and more. Read their list, along with commentary, below.
THE UMBRELLAS - INFLUENCES BEHIND OUR DEBUT ALBUM
1. The Seasons
All four of us are from California, and we ended up here in San Francisco, where it doesn’t really get warm until September. We tend to romanticize seasons because we never get to truly experience them and all of the feelings they evoke following the change of the trees, the sky, and the lighting around. Seasons are a signifier of time passing and they give reason to reflect and also look ahead. The songs “Summer” and “Autumn” reflect this more clearly, but much of the record is influenced by that feeling of letting go and starting anew with nature.
2. Popkiss by Michael White
This book written by Michael White follows the inimitable life of indie label Sarah Records, one of our biggest inspirations as music listeners and players. We all shared a copy, Nick first let Morgan borrow his.. And then Morgan got her own which she lent it to Matt (Which he still needs to finish and return!!) It goes into the details of fostering a scene that follows the ethos of something larger than yourself. It’s punk rock but it’s pop! It’s the ultimate D.I.Y. handbook and yes while it may be niche, it feels important and expressive. We took inspiration from bands that were mentioned in the book, because the way they approached music seemed more attainable and yet honest in its meager beginnings.
3. San Francisco’s DIY music scene
There’s a lot of inspiring stuff going on right now in the SF music scene. When we played our first show inside of a comic book store, Peter Hurley from April Magazine was there and he took a liking to our music. We played with a drum machine and all of the practice amps were sitting on chairs and we only had like four songs. He asked us to play at his art gallery, where we were met with so much positive encouragement, excitement, and support from other people playing great music. Slumberland eventually wanted to put out a record with us and we were elated to join a roster of some of our favorite bands.
4. San Francisco in general
All of us feel quite fortunate to maintain living in this wonderful, yet often underappreciated city that has always been inspirational. It became a tradition to walk around North Beach (which we all mutually love). Going around miles together on foot and talking about our feelings and navigating the world as young adults were common points of discussion. Pointing out buildings and places of historical and cultural significance really bonded us as a group. People tend to forget about San Francisco’s cultural significance and overshadow it as a corporate wasteland.. When we make music, we want to honor all of the amazing aspects of this city (that still exist)
We chose to self-record the LP because of the creative and financial control it would give us over a professional studio. Keith and Matt have both recorded at professional studios in the past and were disappointed by the end results. It’s hard to get what you want when your budget is small and your ideal production references music that was made 30 years ago. So we decided to drive down to Southern California and build a mobile studio in an empty house. The goal was to create a record that wasn't low or high fidelity but something in between. We lived together, ate together, and recorded there for about a week until most of the tracking was done. Self-recorded music can sometimes make a project feel so much more special and urgent. Also some of our favorites records are self recorded a la Elliott Smith, Guided by Voices, Emitt Rhodes, Linda Smith, CAN...The list goes on.
While 2020 was probably the most devastating year on a global level; 2019 on a personal level was no walk in the park either. While it’s hard to pick which year was worse, 2019 brought our group: health issues, relationships coming to an end, brief stints couch-surfing, and across-bay moves. This year is when our band became something more significant to all of us. The highlights of the year were usually the practices and times we all got to spend together, especially when we departed on our first tour. We also began to record the record during this time and we put out our Maritime EP cassette on Nick and Matt’s label.
7) Keith pick: Deerhoof- Reveille
I love every Deerhoof album, but I picked this album because I was listening to it the most around the time we recorded the record. They’re a huge influence on my drumming. Mostly due to Greg Saunier’s dedication to the craft. The way they are all able to play such chaotic songs and then move into such dreamy and melodious ones all while staying tight and in time just shows how practice and really dedicating time to the craft of drumming/music can allow you to break rules and create new ones at the same time.
8) Nick: Field Mice - Snowball
Listened to Snowball everyday for two years straight, so much so that he had to take a break from it. Michael Hiscocks’s bass playing will always be regarded as some of the greatest of the genre. Bobby Wratten may be the greatest lyricist of the 20th century; writing the most personable, honest and self reflective of songs. His lyrics and vocal delivery have undoubtedly influenced our own work.
9) Morgan: Various Artists - Sharon Signs to Cherry Red
When I lived with Nick for a short time in 2018, we would trade records all the time. One day he handed this compilation over to me and I became obsessed! I listened to it constantly in awe of these women making music that told their stories of finding their voice in indie pop, punk, whatever. The music was gloriously messy and pretty at the sametime, each song so different and introspective. That album really is a whole world in itself and it made me realize that I could sing in a band.
10) Matt: Up for a Bit With The Pastels
This album is very inspiring to me because of its production and songwriting. Its production is just this wonderful '80s-does-the-'60s sound which I referenced a lot while mixing our record. As far as songwriting goes, there is a perfect balance of silly and serious - which is something I really enjoy. Some of the songs are about relationships, while others are about a sisters’ lover and various types of transportation. It's a very earnest and fun record. I also am just a huge fan of Stephen Pastel's vocal delivery.
The Umbrellas - S/T tracklist:
2. Near You
5. It’s True
6. She Buys Herself Flowers
9. Never Available
11. City Song